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America's Food: What You Don't Know About What You Eat (MIT Press) Paperback – February 25, 2011
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An excellent primer on the food we eat today.(Brian Halweil, Worldwatch Institute)
Comprehensive, informative, readable: a good primer on America's food supply and eating habits.(Vaclav Smil, Distinguished Professor at the University of Manitoba, and author of Energy in Nature and Society and Feeding the World)
About the Author
Harvey Blatt is the author of America's Environmental Report Card: Are We Making the Grade? (MIT Press). He taught geology at the University of Houston and the University of Oklahoma for many years and is now Professor of Geology at the Institute of Earth Sciences at Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
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Top Customer Reviews
The book can be roughly divided into four parts. The first three chapters deal with soil and grain. Chapters 4 and 5 deal with the diametrically opposed topics of organic food (including organically raised animals) and genetically modified (GM) food. The next section deals with the specific animals, namely poultry, livestock and fish. The last two chapters discuss food processing and measures of (poor) health resulting from imbalanced diet.
In my opinion the word "distortion" is the keyword of this book. Blatt suggested this when he discusses breastfeeding and the use of cow milk in human diet (p. 141), where "nature knows best how to keep us healthy". The idea is present in other, more subtle ways as well: the introduction of chemical fertilizers to reap short-term benefit at the expense of sustainability, raising ever-increasing amounts of grain to feed the farm animals in response to increasing human demand to meat, and the cruelty that is imposed upon farm animals, to name a few.
Speaking of the topic of cruelty imposed upon farm animals, while there are descriptions of poor living conditions of factory farms, there is little discussion on the philosophical aspects of it. There are also rhetorical questions that surround this topic.Read more ›
While other books focus on telling a story or taking you on a journey through the food system, this book is laid out like a long school report. Page after page of statistics, quotes and graphs swim in front of your eyes and, I admit, it takes some focus to put the numbers into a meaningful story. America's Food is lumped together by topic and reads like a student listing the facts about their chosen subject, so while you might find a more interesting story reading about the Corn Nation in The Omnivores Dilemma, you won't find nearly as much information about the world of corn as you will in this book, and for that reason alone, I give it 3 stars. If this book covered less territory, I would not recommend it at all.
Blatt does a superb job of giving you all of the facts that you could possibly use with very little opinion or conjecture, but without much story or life either.